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The New McGuffey Fourth Reader
by William H. McGuffey, Compiler

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By Nathaniel Hawthorne

When Benjamin Franklin was a boy he was very fond of fishing; and

many of his leisure hours were spent on the margin of the mill

pond catching flounders, perch, and eels that came up thither

with the tide.

The place where Ben and his playmates did most of their fishing

was a marshy spot on the outskirts of Boston. On the edge of the

water there was a deep bed of clay, in which the boys were forced

to stand while they caught their fish.

"This is very uncomfortable," said Ben Franklin one day to his

comrades, while they were standing in the quagmire.

"So it is," said the other boys. "What a pity we have no better

place to stand on!"

On the dry land, not far from the quagmire, there were at that

time a great many large stones that had been brought there to be

used in building the foundation of a new house. Ben mounted upon

the highest of these stones.

"Boys," said he, "I have thought of a plan. You know what a

plague it is to have to stand in the quagmire yonder. See, I am

bedaubed to the knees, and you are all in the same plight.

"Now I propose that we build a wharf. You see these stones? The

workmen mean to use them for building a house here. My plan is to

take these same stones, carry them to the edge of the water, and

build a wharf with them. What say you, lads? Shall we build the wharf?"

"Yes, yes," cried the boys; "let's set about it!"

It was agreed that they should all be on the spot that evening,

and begin their grand public enterprise by moonlight.

Accordingly, at the appointed time, the boys met and eagerly

began to remove the stones. They worked like a colony of ants,

sometimes two or three of them taking hold of one stone; and at

last they had carried them all away, and built their little wharf.

"Now, boys," cried Ben, when the job was done, "let's give three

cheers, and go home to bed. To-morrow we may catch fish at our ease."

"Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!" shouted his comrades, and all

scampered off home and to bed, to dream of to-morrow's sport.

In the morning the masons came to begin their work. But what was

their surprise to find the stones all gone! The master mason,

looking carefully on the ground, saw the tracks of many little

feet, some with shoes and some barefoot. Following these to the

water side, he soon found what had become of the missing building


"Ah! I see what the mischief is," said he; "those little rascals

who were here yesterday have stolen the stones to build a wharf

with. And I must say that they understand their business well."

He was so angry that he at once went to make a complaint before

the magistrate; and his Honor wrote an order to "take the bodies

of Benjamin Franklin, and other evil-disposed persons," who had

stolen a heap of stones.

If the owner of the stolen property had not been more merciful

than the master mason, it might have gone hard with our friend

Benjamin and his comrades. But, luckily for them, the gentleman

had a respect for Ben's father, and, moreover, was pleased with

the spirit of the whole affair. He therefore let the culprits off easily.

But the poor boys had to go through another trial, and receive

sentence, and suffer punishment, too, from their own fathers.

Many a rod was worn to the stump on that unlucky night. As for

Ben, he was less afraid of a whipping than of his father's

reproof. And, indeed, his father was very much disturbed.

"Benjamin, come hither," began Mr. Franklin in his usual stern

and weighty tone. The boy approached and stood before his

father's chair. "Benjamin," said his father, "what could induce

you to take property which did not belong to you?"

"Why, father," replied Ben, hanging his head at first, but then

lifting his eyes to Mr. Franklin's face, "if it had been merely

for my own benefit, I never should have dreamed of it. But I knew

that the wharf would be a public convenience. If the owner of the

stones should build a house with them, nobody would enjoy any

advantage but himself. Now, I made use of them in a way that was

for the advantage of many persons."

"My son," said Mr. Franklin solemnly, "so far as it was in your

power, you have done a greater harm to the public than to the

owner of the stones. I do verily believe, Benjamin, that almost

all the public and private misery of mankind arises from a

neglect of this great truth,--that evil can produce only evil,

that good ends must be wrought out by good means."

To the end of his life, Ben Franklin never forgot this

conversation with his father; and we have reason to suppose,

that, in most of his public and private career, he sought to act

upon the principles which that good and wise man then taught him.


In defining words, that meaning is given which is appropriate to them in the connection in which they are used. The pupil should look in the dictionary for the meaning of all the others with which he is not perfectly familiar.

Quagmire, soft, wet, miry land.

Outskirt, borders.

Plague, bother, great trouble.

Plight, condition.

Wharf, a platform on the shore of a harbor, river, or lake, extending some way into the water.

Comrades, companions, playfellows.

Magistrate, an officer of the law, justice of the peace.

Ringleader, the leader of several persons acting together.

Culprits, wrong-doers.

Solemnly, with great dignity.

Induce, lead persuade.

Benefit, profit, accomodation.

Verily, truly.


Where is Boston?

How long ago did Benjamin Franklin live?

Learn all that you can about his life and work, and repeat it to the class at the next recitation.



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